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Are Your District's Math Scores Keeping Pace? Comparing PSSA Results Across Pennsylvania

We analyzed PSSA math data from across Pennsylvania in order to understand how the current state of math education compares to previous years, and what can be expected moving forward. 
Are Your District's Math Scores Keeping Pace? Comparing PSSA Results Across Pennsylvania
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Key Data and Findings from the 2023 PSSA’s

  • 56 school districts, out of 499 districts in PA, had 60% or more of their students score proficient or above on the Math PSSA. This equates to just over 11% of all school districts in PA. 
  • Of the top 10 performing school districts in this metric, 6 of them were in Allegheny County.
  • The School District of Philadelphia ranks 454th among all school districts in Pennsylvania in this metric.
  • Allegehny had both the top performing school district in the state, Upper Saint Clair, and the worst performing school district, Sto-Rox.
  • From 2019 to 2021, the statewide percentage of students who scored proficient or above decreased by 9.6%. 
  • Access the interactive map

How Did Your Region Perform on the Math PSSAs?

Counties with the Most School Districts in the Top 50 

  1. Allegheny - 14 districts
  2. Delaware - 7 districts 
  3. Montgomery - 6 districts
  4. Chester - 3 districts 

     T4 Westmoreland - 3 districts

     6. Washington - 2 districts 

     T6. Bucks - 2 districts 

     T6. Lehigh - 2 districts

     T6. Butler 2 districts 

Counties with the Most School Districts in the Bottom 50  

  1. Allegheny - 8 districts 
  2. Luzerne - 5 districts 
  3. Delaware - 4 districts 
  4. Dauphin - 3 districts 

     T4. Schuylkill - 3 districts 

      6. Berks - 2 districts 

     T6. Montgomery - 2 districts 

     T6. Bucks - 2 districts 

     T6. Westmoreland - 2 districts 

     T6. Lancaster - 2 districts 

     T6. Lackawanna - 2 districts 

Our research identified a significant trend in math performance as indicated by the PSSA results across counties. Notably, counties with two or more school districts ranking in the top 50 for percent proficiency or higher tend to cluster around the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, is bordered by Westmoreland, Butler, and Washington County, all of which exhibit strong math proficiency and are situated on the western edge of the state. Conversely, on the eastern side surrounding Philadelphia, counties such as Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks, along with Lehigh and Chester, which are considered part of the Philadelphia suburbs, also demonstrate high proficiency rates in math. This discernible pattern suggests that the most successful regions for math education in Pennsylvania are those proximate to its major cities. 

However, it is noteworthy that despite the overall strong performance of surrounding districts, the School District of Philadelphia, representing Philadelphia County, ranks notably lower at 454th among all districts statewide.

To improve on these scores, The Board of Education for the School District of Philadelphia has established “Goals and Guardrails” to outline how students can continue to improve. The goal that relates to math testing aims for 52% of 3rd-8th grade students to be proficient on the state math assessment by August 2025. If the School District of Philadelphia can achieve this goal, it would significantly boost its ranking among other districts in Pennsylvania. 

Current Statewide Math Performance

Our research reveals that among Pennsylvania's nearly 500 school districts, only 56 districts achieved a proficiency rate of 60.0% or higher on Math PSSA testing, representing just over 11% of all districts in the state. Conversely, a significant portion, 215 school districts, had 40% or fewer of their students score proficient or above, comprising 43% of Pennsylvania's school districts. This disparity underscores the variability in math proficiency levels across districts.

Top 10 Performing Districts by Percent Proficient or Better

  1. Upper Saint Clair School District - 80.4%
  2. Lower Merion School District - 80.0%
  3. Fox Chapel Area  School District- 78.7%
  4. Radnor Township School District - 78.3%
  5. Peters Township School District - 77.8%
  6. South Fayette Township School District - 74.7%
  7. Tredyffrin-Easttown School District - 73.5%
  8. North Allegheny School District - 73.4%
  9. Quaker Valley School District - 73.1%
  10. West Allegheny School District  - 73.1%

A Steep Falloff and a Gradual Recovery: Statewide Performance Through the Years

The percentage of students scoring proficient or above on math PSSAs in Pennsylvania across all grade levels in 2023 was 39.4%, marking an increase from the previous two years. In 2022, the statewide percentage was 34.4%, while in 2021 it stood at 32.8%. 

However, despite this improvement, there remains a notable disparity from pre-pandemic levels. Prior to the pandemic, the percentage of students achieving proficiency or better hovered around 42% consistently. For instance, in 2019, it was 42.4%, in 2018 it was 42.0%, and in 2017 it reached 42.6%. 

Although there has been some recovery in math proficiency percentages over the past few years, they have not yet returned to the levels observed before the pandemic, indicating ongoing efforts are necessary to restore previous levels of achievement.

What are the PSSA’S?

The Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, is a standardized assessment administered to students in grades 3-8 each year throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Each year students in grades 3-8 are assessed in Math and Language Arts. In addition students in grade 4 and grade 8 are assessed in Science. These tests are administered each year with the goal of identifying and standardizing what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. You can learn more about the PSSA exams on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website. 

Why should you care about the PSSA Results? 

These standardized tests offer valuable insights into mathematics proficiency over time and reveal significant regional disparities in math education. By analyzing these insights, we can work towards reducing inequalities in math education and related opportunities. They provide visibility into high-performing districts and common factors contributing to their success, as well as highlighting areas of underperformance and shared challenges. Utilizing these statistics enables us to identify strategies for improving overall math performance across Pennsylvania.


We analyzed PSSA math scores from every school district in Pennsylvania to determine which districts had the highest percentage of students that scored proficient or above. We also ranked every district based on the percent proficient or above metric and analyzed the data for possible conclusions that could be drawn regarding regional trends. 

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About the author:

As a success specialist and content creator for Learner, Evan is dedicated to improving and innovating education opportunities for everyone. He is a recent graduate of Penn State University and has experienced the impact of successful tutoring first hand as a student!

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